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Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones are back with the aliens again

By Jeffrey Peterson

For the Deseret News

Published: Thursday, May 24 2012 5:41 p.m. MDT

Keone Young, left, and Tommy Lee Jones star in "Men in Black 3."

Wilson Webb, Saeed Adyani

Continuing the trend of alien invasion movies that have dominated the box office this May, "Men in Black 3" hits the big screen and sees the return of Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones as MIB agents J and K, respectively, in director Barry Sonnenfeld's ultra-successful comedy franchise.

But with a 10-year gap since the duo's last cinematic outing, the world of MIB probably isn't fresh in a lot of audience member's minds.

So whether you're new to the franchise or just looking for a reminder, here are some things you might want to brush up on if you plan on seeing "Men in Black 3" this weekend.

The first "Men in Black" movie hit theaters in 1997. Originally based on a comic book from the early '90s by Lowell Cunningham, "Men in Black" introduced moviegoers to the secretive non-governmental organization known as MIB, a group tasked with policing extraterrestrials and preventing widespread awareness of the alien presence on Earth.

Will Smith starred as an NYPD officer named James Darrell Edwards III. After Edwards impressively chases down an alien thief on foot, Tommy Lee Jones' perpetually sullen Agent K decides to recruit him to the MIB and train him as a new partner.

A peek behind the intergalactic curtain doesn't come free, though. In exchange for the black suit and a snazzy pair of Ray-Bans, Edwards is asked to give up his former identity, shortening his name to just J — the Men in Black, as the cliché goes, don't exist.

When situations involving alien life forms get out of hand, the MIB have an assortment of weapons and gadgets at their disposal, including a Neuralyzer, a device used to wipe people's memories with a flash of light — unless they're wearing Ray-Bans, of course.

At the risk of blowing the ending for those who haven't seen it, the first "Men in Black" concludes with the revelation that Agent K actually recruited Agent J as his replacement. Using the Neuralyzer, Agent K's memories of the MIB are erased, and he returns to civilian life where he can start over with a childhood sweetheart.

This is where "Men in Black II" picks up. After an attack on the MIB's New York headquarters (an underground base disguised as a Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority ventilation station), Agent J has to find his old partner — who's now working as a mailman — and bring him back into the MIB in order to foil a plot involving an alien lover from K's past. For such a surly guy, K sure seems to have had an active love life — a past relationship is also explored in "Men in Black 3."

The supporting cast of alien characters has helped make the "Men in Black" movies so memorable. Such characters include a quartet of CG/puppet hybrids known as the Worm Guys, Frank the Pug (a loudmouthed extraterrestrial disguised as a dog) and the alien weapons dealer Jack Jeebs (played by Tony Shalhoub of "Monk" fame).

While only the Worm Guys make a brief appearance in the latest movie, the filmmakers obviously hope to provide the same successful mix of witty pop culture references, colorful alien characters and just a little bit of fuel for paranoid conspiracy theorists that made the original two films into a billion-dollar franchise.

The big question, though, is whether 10 years is too long to wait for people to get excited about a sequel, especially in a summer already oversaturated with alien invasion movies.

A native of Utah Valley and a devoted cinephile, Jeff is currently studying humanities and history at Brigham Young University.

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